Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Questioning Reality - A Great Start to the Week

There's a fantastic review for ALISON WONDERLAND over at Zee Monodee's blog today:
"When you put this book down, you start to look at the world around you with different eyes - maybe, just maybe, what you see is not the reality you imagine it is... And that's a strength of Ms. Smith's writing, making you question your reality in a subtle, curious way."
I also took part in a Q&A about ALISON WONDERLAND so please check it out if you'd like to learn more about the book - they were interesting questions.

I'm really thrilled that Zee enjoyed the book. It's a great start to the week. Yes! I know it's Tuesday. It was a Bank Holiday here yesterday so I wasn't working. I spent the weekend in the countryside at a fancy dress party at the house of some very generous, hospitable friends. It's an annual event and, as ever, it was a sprawling, successful affair. This time round it included two bars, five bands, three marquees, a hog roast, a dance competition and a cricket tour by an actors' team from London. It was great fun. No arrests were made.

I need to spend the week working on a play and a mystery story. I'll also be getting notes on the first draft of another play. After reading Zee's lovely review of ALISON WONDERLAND I feel enthused about all of it. Thanks, Zee.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

August Recommendations

Thanks to 26 for picking Alison Wonderland as one of their August recommendations, alongside Jez Butterworth's award-winning play, Jerusalem.

26 is an association for editors and writers that organises literary festivals, events and projects that promote writing and writers. Alison Wonderland is available from Amazon in the UK and the US or from your local bookshop.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Trashionista Q&A

Trashionista have posted a Q&A I did with them about ALISON WONDERLAND over on their site.

The book is getting lots of attention on book blogs and and is racing up the Kindle charts in the UK and the US. Thanks to everyone who has bought it and read it, and thanks to everyone who has reviewed it, too.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Celebrating (Other People's) Success

It has been a good week for me, as you'll know if you're a regular reader of this blog, because ALISON WONDERLAND has been published and has raced up the Kindle chart in the UK and the US. I will do a money under the mat update soon as there has been plenty of other good news for me - I have been commissioned to write a new play and I am also in the process of setting up a new theatre company with some other writers.

Friends are also enjoying success, so let's celebrate that:

I met Karen McQuestion in New York a few months ago and she did a Q&A on my blog beforehand. She has just received the ARC of her latest book, Secrets of the Magic Ring, which will be published in November. You can read more about it on her blog and also leave a comment for the chance to win a copy.

Piers Beckley and his brother Ralph have produced a sell-out show in Edinburgh, The Just So Stories, written by Piers (based on the Rudyard Kipling stories), directed by Ralph.

Jason Arnopp and Dan Turner have written and directed, respectively, and co-produced, a film called Stormhouse that is getting a very good reception. News of further screenings here.

Jason has also just published a book on the Kindle in the UK and the US called How to interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else, with an accompanying blog called journozone with further hints and tips about how to break into the kind of journalism where Jason has been making his mark for the last 20 years.

Martin Figura has received some brilliant reviews for his new theatre show, Whistle, in which he performs poetry from the book of the same name, which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes prize for new work. Now, I must admit, I don't really know Martin. I have met him a couple of times, most recently at Literary Death Match, and I love seeing him perform his poetry. We're friends on Twitter, does that count? Anyway, I'm glad to see his show getting such good write-ups, including this one from Natasha Tripney in Exeunt.

I met Leo Benedictus at Literary Death Match too - a different one. I just started reading his new book, The Afterparty. It's brilliantly clever and beautifully written.

Rebecca Chance's book is no. 28 on the Sunday Times bestseller list, no. 8 at Asda and no. 10 at WH Smith. It's also zipping up the Amazon chart. I have been to several very entertaining launch parties for the book and I'm looking forward to a reading Rebecca's doing at Sh! with Olivia Darling and Stella Duffy tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday Salon - a joyful week

This week was a good one for me - my book, ALISON WONDERLAND, was published by AmazonEncore and went into the top 30 on the Kindle chart on Amazon.com on its release. Thanks to everyone who has bought it and read it - the Kindle edition is on special offer at the moment at $3.99 or £2.99 so if you're thinking of buying it, grab it at that price while you can. If you don't have a Kindle, you can use various free apps, including Cloudreader, to read it on your smartphone or computer.

A few people have asked if I would talk to their book group about ALISON WONDERLAND. If you're within easy reach of London I'll do my best to get there. If not, I can always answer questions via email. If you're looking for reviews for ALISON WONDERLAND, you'll find them here.

I have started a Q&A page on Goodreads if you'd like to join. I'll be appearing at various literary events in the UK over the next few months - please check out my events page for details. You can watch a video of me reading an excerpt from the book here.

On Tuesday, publication day, I went for a celebration with my daughter and her father - and ended up having an impromptu wild party with lots of singing and dancing in the kitchen with family and friends. It had been a miserable week before that because of the riots in London, so it was good to feel joyful again.

On Wednesday I went to Literary Death Match where Nat Segnit was proclaimed champion after competing against Naomi Wood, Nicola Carley and Nick Taussig. The judges were Arjun Basu, Audrey Gillan and Mark Billingham.

On Thursday I went to see South Pacific at the Barbican. It's the Lincoln Center production with original stars Paulo Szot as Emile and Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary, and new cast members including Samantha Womack as Nellie and Alex Ferns as Luther Billis. Highly recommended.

I also updated the site for Araminta Claremont's Time Travel Travel Agency with a video giving my version of events leading up to her mysterious disappearance.

Next week I'm looking forward to a celebration of European literature at the Sugar Lounge on Monday, English PEN's Writers in Translation: Chinese Fables at the Free Word Centre with Bi Feiyu and Chan Koonchung on Tuesday, and Sexy Summer Book Reading at Sh! with Rebecca Chance, Stella Duffy and Olivia Darling on Thursday.

What have you been up to? I hope you've been having fun.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

World Wide Wonderland

ALISON WONDERLAND is published today for the first time in the US and worldwide, and relaunched in the UK.
After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbour; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.
Thanks to Alex Carr at AmazonEncore who discovered the book, and to Sarah Tomashek and the author team at Amazon Publishing, and Sarah Burningham at Little Bird, who have been working hard to ensure that readers and reviewers discover it, too. Thanks to Brian Zimmerman who designed the cover, and to everyone at Amazon Publishing who has worked on the editing, marketing, design or publicity for the book. I had a chance to meet many of them in New York recently and they're clever, talented people, and I'm delighted that my book is in their hands.

Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed the book, and recommended it to their friends - I know that includes many people who read this blog: thank you.

Here's a video of me reading an excerpt from ALISON WONDERLAND. [Please note: it contains the one instance of very strong language that occurs in the book.]

She Writes - Blog Hop

I belong to an online community of women writers called She Writes. Meg Clayton has organised a 'blog hop' this week. What is a blog hop? It's just a way of finding new blogs to visit.

If you found this blog via the blog hop, welcome! Please leave a comment to say hello so I can go back and visit your blog.

As for me, I'm a novelist and playwright. I live in London. My book, ALISON WONDERLAND, is published in the US for the first time today, so I'm celebrating all week long.

Please take a look around. Why not start by watching a short video? You can also visit this site. It details my adventures with time travel while looking for my friend Araminta Claremont, who has gone missing in the future.

Monday, 15 August 2011

For Love and Books

I did an interview about ALISON WONDERLAND over at For Love and Books.

Thanks to Jac for the questions. She asks about my favourite character, how I write, and how much of my personal "Mr. Wonderland" my character Alison might be looking for. If you're curious to know the answers to any of those, please click here.

ALISON WONDERLAND will be published tomorrow, 16th August.

Time Travel updates

I have updated Araminta Claremont's site and posted a video that tells the story behind her disappearance.

How to find cheap ebooks

All my books are on offer at low prices at Amazon and Kobo.

You can find more information at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and


Daily Cheap Reads UK finds and lists free and cheap ebooks in the UK. It's run by the same people who run the popular Daily Cheap Reads site in the US . You don't need a Kindle to read the books - you can use a free kindle app for your iPad or smartphone, or you can download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac for free. You can also use Cloudreader to read books in your browser on your computer if you use Chrome or Safari.

The Frugal Ereader has regular posts about free and cheap ebooks in the US, as well as news, features and giveaways. There is an anniversary giveaway running on the site with a book being given away every day this month.

Ereadernewstoday has news about free and cheap ebooks in the US, as well as Kindle accessories.

I also use EreaderIQ to notify me about price drops of ebooks I'd like to buy. It has both a US and a UK site.

The Kindle Daily Deal launched on 15th November 2011 in the UK. Each day a different book is available for 24 hours at a discount of around 70-80%. The Kindle Daily Deal has been operating successfully in the US for a while, with books by popular/famous authors on offer at very cheap prices.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The British lovechild of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick

I had a wonderful review today for The Miracle Inspector:

"Helen Smith crafts a story like she’s the British lovechild of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, only with a feminist slant."

You can read the rest of the review here. It's very considered and well-written and I'm thrilled with it.

You can buy The Miracle Inspector from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

If you don't have a Kindle you can download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac or Cloud Reader - they're all free.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Clapham Junction Cleanup - You've Got the Love

A lot of people - including me - were out and about in London trying to help with the cleanup (or at least show some kind of solidarity and love for London) following the looting in some of the city's high streets last night and at the weekend.

The cleanups were organised on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtags #riotcleanup and #riotwombles so people could stay in touch with each other and find out where and when to meet, and we were told to bring a broom and a sturdy pair of gardening gloves if we had them. This brilliant photo was taken in Clapham Junction by Andy B:

When we got confirmation that police would shortly let us into the area after finishing their forensic work at the scene, I walked to Clapham Junction across Clapham Common from where I live in Brixton. Despite what the BBC insists in every broadcast about the looting, Clapham Junction is not in Clapham, it's in Battersea, and it took me about 40 minutes to walk there. The buses were running but it was a nice sunny day and I wanted to walk.

Everything was normal in the streets that I walked down and the houses that I passed; life went on as it always does: on Clapham Common people were walking their dogs, playing with their children, exercising, sunbathing or drinking coffee and chatting.

St John's Hill, near Clapham Junction station, was cordoned off when I arrived, the windows of most of the businesses smashed, the security shutters ripped or broken off completely, and one or two alarms still ringing faintly. We waited with our brooms because the fire brigade were still securing the burnt-out party shop opposite Arding & Hobbs department store, and they got a huge cheer from the crowd when they finished.

My photos are more mundane than the one above. But as you can see, it was all about the brooms:

On Thursday from midday to one o'clock there is a 'spread a message of love and peace' event in Brixton where you can meet outside the Ritzy to give away free stuff to passersby. I'm going to give away some books. [Edit: this event has been postponed. But a good way to support local businesses that have been affected directly or indirectly is to shop locally and visit the local cafes and restaurants, so I'll do that instead.]

Monday, 8 August 2011

Interview in Words with JAM

There's an interview with me on page 27 of the August issue of Words With JAM. You can also win one of five copies of Alison Wonderland - please see page 38 of the magazine for details of how to enter - closing date 5th September. There is also an article about Write to Life, the therapeutic writing group for which I volunteer as a mentor through Freedom From Torture, and a write-up of the event, Survivor, at which my friend F. Mehrban's account of her sixteen-year-old cellmate's death in prison in Iran was read, along with poetry and prose by other members of the Write to Life group.

Summer Book Giveaway - winners chosen

Thanks to everyone who took part in last week's Summer Book Giveaway on this site. The winners were chosen using random.org:

Katie P has won an Amazon Gift Card worth $15

Amy S has won the bonus prize of a copy of Alison Wonderland which will be sent direct to her from her Amazon wishlist when the book is published on 16th August.

Both winners have been notified by email.

I'm sorry if you didn't win but I will be having another giveaway next month so please check back for details.

Have a great week!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Interview with Richard Hine

Richard Hine was born in London and now lives in New York, where I recently met up with him. He has worked in advertising and publishing. His first novel, Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch, was published in October 2010. It has had enthusiastic endorsements from industry insiders and is even taught in the 'Business and the Future of Journalism' class at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Q) Richard, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions about your work. When did you move to the United States, and why?

I moved to New York in 1987 at the age of 24 and have lived here ever since. I’m now 48, so I feel about half-British, half-American, which balances well with my life partner, Amanda Filipacchi, who’s half-French, half-American by birth.

I don’t think I would have ever contemplated living in America if I hadn’t worked as a gofer at the London offices of ABC News in the early 1980s. One of the people I met there was Bill Thompson, an American studying in London and interning at ABC. We became close friends. Through Bill I met a lot more American students in London, many of who were foolish enough to invite me to visit. I spent two summers in the mid-80s doing just that, traveling from NY to Ohio to Missouri to Texas to Pennsylvania and a few other places all by Greyhound Bus. It was a lot of fun. Except for the parts on a bus.

Back in 1987, I had no intention of moving to the US permanently. I married an American and we planned on staying in NY two years before heading back to London. But somehow our plans changed and so did my attitude about living in the States. At first I found New York overwhelming, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Q) You have worked as a ghostwriter. Can you tell us whose books you have ghosted – and even if not, can you talk a bit about the process? Did you find it satisfying, creatively?

Throughout my career, I’ve done a great deal of writing—from advertising copy to sales letters to speeches—in the voice of others. So I do think I’ve developed a knack for organizing and expressing the thoughts of others (even if I still have trouble doing it for myself).

I ghostwrote one book, called SURVIVE TO THRIVE, for Philip H. Geier, Jr., the former CEO of Interpublic Group, one of the big four advertising holding companies. Phil was one of the industry’s original “Mad Men,” having started at the McCann-Erickson agency in New York in the 1960s. He rose to be CEO in 1980 and spent the next 20 years competing with the likes of the Saatchis, Martin Sorrell’s WPP and Omnicom.

Writing the book was challenging and fun—and gave me a chance to hear the inside stories of some of the great campaigns I remembered from childhood, as well as the major ad-business battles that defined the industry in the 1990s. Phil and I forged a close and productive working relationship. And I enjoyed the discipline and research—and deadlines—that go into producing a non-fiction book.

Q) Were you prompted to write Russell Wiley Is Out To Lunch because of your experiences in the media industry or had you always planned to sit down and write a novel one day?

I always wanted to be a novelist. Although if Twitter had existed when I was a kid, I might have aspired to produce the Great American Tweet instead. I did write a lot of short stories and flash fiction over the years, some of which even got published. But the challenge of writing a novel always daunted me. Eventually, though, I realized I knew more about working on the business side of an “old media” company than most novelists, and convinced myself that it would be worth creating a story about the challenges of print media in the digital age. So I allowed myself to give it a go. Also, getting older helped. I finally got to the point where I could no longer stand being one of those people who spend their life talking about writing a novel and never doing it. Even if I failed completely, I was ready to move to the level of having an unpublished novel I could keep in a drawer. Fortunately, I had the gumption to take it back out of the drawer and completely rewrite it before attempting to get it published.

Q) Amazon and Zooppa.com hosted the first crowdsourced book launch competition for your book. How did that come about?

One of my former Time Inc. colleagues, Wil Merritt, is now the CEO of Zooppa. It’s a company that runs creative contests to produce advertising for major brands like Google, Kit-Kat, Microsoft, Nike, and Sony. We had lunch one day and he described what a crowdsourced contest was—how it got talented people around the world to produce videos, print ads and online banners based on a specific creative brief. I told him I wanted one for my book. Amazon liked the idea. And away we went. The contest generated a total of 150 creative entries, including 30 different video book trailers. Our panel of judges had to choose between some superbly acted and directed mini-movies and some fantastic animated spots. The winner was a funny music video.

Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch may not be as famous as Kit-Kat, Microsoft, Nike or Sony. But you can definitely find it on Google.

Q) Your website looks amazing. Where else can we find you online?

Thanks. The site was designed by Jefferson Rabb, one of the top designers of author websites in New York. You can also find me on Twitter @richardhine. If you want news about the newspaper business and annoying promotional tweets about my novel, I also have an account called @newspapernovel.

I’m also on Goodreads, where anyone who is a friend of Helen Smith is welcome to be a friend of mine. My Goodreads author page is: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3927407.Richard_Hine

I’m on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/richardhine.FB and also have a “fan” page for my novel on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RussellWileyIsOutToLunch

Finally, if you only want videos, I also have a YouTube page featuring all 30 videos from the Zooppa contest and more: http://www.youtube.com/richardhineauthor

Q) What are you working on now – are you writing another book?

I am definitely working on a new novel. Just not as much as I should be.

Thank you! I really enjoyed Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch. Good luck with the next book, Richard.

[author photo by Amanda Filipacchi]

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Notes & Observations on the Risks Involved in Time Travel

I'll have another update on my time travel adventures soon. I think I will start posting over on Araminta's site. (I have already been on there and listed her as missing - it was very easy to guess the password). She set up the site to publicize the Time Travel Travel Agency that she dreamed of launching - but that was before she got stuck in the future. It makes sense now to use the site to appeal for help in finding my friend while also documenting my adventures in time travel as I go to look for her.

Time travel is so risky that I had pretty much decided not to go after Araminta until I knew where she was and could be sure of getting her back. But I travelled into the future on Thursday night by accident when I fainted and knocked myself out - Araminta had taught me her techniques and they're as difficult to lose as they were to gain initially, especially when the unconscious mind takes over. Apparently I was 'gone' for a minute. I did wake up with the memory of a very nice 'dream', which might well provide some clue to Araminta's whereabouts - if only I could remember it.

I seemed to have made a full recovery and I wrote up my observations as far as I was able, just as Araminta had taught me to do, so that scientists can study them and ordinary people can make use of them in due course, for the good of all humanity and also for entertainment purposes. But then I made the mistake of travelling back in time on Monday night; I was reminiscing, thinking about some of the old songs I used to love in the period leading up to when my daughter was born (it's her birthday on Friday). But you know how going down into the sea when scuba diving and then going up in an aeroplane is dangerous? So it proved with time travel (which is dangerous enough at the best of times) because the combination of going forwards into the future and then going back into the past made me unwell.

I woke up yesterday morning to find that I was dizzy and faint and kept losing my balance. Specialists at my local hospital tested my eyes, my ears, my brain, my coordination, my blood and my urine but could find nothing wrong. The NHS is wonderful and the nurses and doctors were very kind to me and did all those tests for free, of course, as they always do in this country when you ask for medical help. But they couldn't find what was wrong because it wasn't a medical condition but a condition caused by reckless time travel.

If I should manage to get Araminta back and she should make her fortune as planned with her Time Travel Travel Agency, I will ask her to fund a specialist time travel medical centre at the hospital, which is a famous teaching hospital here in London. I look forward to a time when the welcome video playing in the waiting rooms can boast that every year they train 450 doctors, 750 dentists and one specialist time travel medical practitioner.

But first, I have to find Araminta - and I have no idea where she is. There is a phrase in this video, below, of Jocelyn Brown singing Somebody Else's Guy that reminds me of her: "I can't get off my high horse" - she really is a most obstinate person and my one hope is that whoever is holding her in the future will get so irritated by her, eventually, that they will just let her go - unless, that is, she is detained not by evil agents guarding the secrets of time, but by love.

By the way, if you decide to watch this video, please take care. This is one of the songs I was thinking about on Monday night so don't risk looking at it if you have recently travelled into the future, whether on purpose or accidentally.